Why I Failed at Baseball by Jeffrey Bean

I feared the shirtless bodies
at practice, reckless, unleashed.
The boys’ muscled ribs,
scorpion-fierce. I couldn’t learn
to charge through the wind at them. to charge through the wind at them.

I liked only baseballs fresh from packages.
I hated the dirt-hardened game balls I never
took home, their bone-and-tendon color. I hated
the daily failings of my milk-weak hands.

I lived in the outfield, far from the shouts
and violent dust. Lost in the odor of grass,
the gum and crushed popcorn potpourri
wafting from beneath the bleachers,
the mitt smell better than horses,

I dropped everything.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off mayflies
fucking overhead, slamming into lights
all their single day.

All season at the plate I whisper-cursed
the vicious pill of the ball. Come at me, c’mon,
you fucker, son-of-a bitch. The coach said
You’ve got to hate it to hit it. I tried
to hate it hard. You damn ass thing,

(I was just learning to swear)
bash me, burst me open. Yes,
I could hate it, I did hate it, and I hated
the pink breakable fruit of my body.

  • originally appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review

Published in the September 2015 Issue

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